Objective: This paper will explore the development of occupational therapists' and physiotherapists' roles in work related practice from an early focus on rehabilitation of injured workers, to one including prevention and health promotion.
Methods: A review of international evidence identified the roles, tasks and employment paths for occupational therapists and physiotherapists in work related practice. The relationship between government regulation and therapists' access to the workplace was also examined.
Results: Occupational therapists and physiotherapists hold valued positions in work related professional practice. Whilst initially their roles were based on injury management through occupational rehabilitation, both professions have demonstrated a clear vision of the importance of prevention of work related injury and disease. Social and workplace changes in the late 1970s in a number of western countries, commencing with the Robens' reforms in the United Kingdom, led to improved legislation and regulation for managing occupational health and safety.
Conclusions: The approach of both disciplines to practice in this field reflects their individual professional education. However, some role overlaps exists in consultancy activities in the industrial environment. Implementation of modern OHS regulatory programs in other western countries, including Australia, has increased and broadened the opportunities for therapists, as governments, employers and insurers support early intervention to minimise the impact of workplace injuries and diseases.